North Korea in­vites state coun­sel­lor to visit

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - YE MON yeemon­tun@mm­times.com

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been in­vited to visit North Korea by her coun­ter­part rep­re­sent­ing the pariah state, with no de­ci­sion yet made on whether she will ac­cept.

STATE Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been in­vited to visit North Korea, the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs an­nounced yes­ter­day.

An of­fi­cial from the min­istry told The Myan­mar Times that the gov­ern­ment had not yet replied to the in­vi­ta­tion of the com­mu­nist pariah state, known of­fi­cially as the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea, and that the state coun­sel­lor was field­ing sim­i­lar over­tures from many coun­tries in her first few months as Myan­mar’s de facto leader.

“France and Ger­many also in­vited her but she hasn’t yet de­cided where to go first. China and US trips [are planned] too,” the of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told re­porters at the Myan­mar em­bassy in Vi­en­tiane, Laos, on July 26 that she would have to con­fer with other mem­bers of her gov­ern­ment be­fore com­mit­ting to a visit. She added that the in­vi­ta­tion was de­liv­ered per­son­ally by North Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Ri Yong-ho on July 25 dur­ing an ASEAN for­eign min­is­ters meet­ing in the Lao­tian cap­i­tal.

The Daily Eleven news­pa­per re­ported that the state coun­sel­lor, who also serves as for­eign min­is­ter, met with her North Korean coun­ter­part bi­lat­er­ally but she de­clined to re­veal what was dis­cussed.

U Ye Tun, a for­mer lower house MP and po­lit­i­cal colum­nist, ad­vised the state coun­sel­lor against the visit, cit­ing the likely neg­a­tive im­pact it would have on Myan­mar’s bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with ri­val South Korea.

“Our coun­try won’t get any ben­e­fit from a North Korea trip. South Korea is in­vested in our coun­try. So, our leader shouldn’t go there,” he said.

The state coun­sel­lor had also planned to visit Malaysia in the com­ing month but Union Min­is­ter for Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion U Thein Swe said her in­creas­ingly packed sched­ule may not per­mit it in the near term.

“There are a lot of trips to take. Al­though she may not visit Malaysia [soon], I need to go there for [Myan­mar] mi­grant work­ers,” he told The Myan­mar Times.

Un­der the for­mer mil­i­tary regime, al­le­ga­tions fre­quently sur­faced of ties be­tween Myan­mar and North Korea that in­cluded ef­forts by the junta to ac­quire nu­clear weapons tech­nol­ogy. Those ac­cu­sa­tions sub­sided as Myan­mar be­gan its tran­si­tion to qua­si­civil­ian rule in 2011, but that did not stop a New York Times re­porter from ask­ing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi about it at a press con­fer­ence with US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry in Nay Pyi Taw in May.

“Do you be­lieve you had a [nu­clear weapons] pro­gram at one point, or the gov­ern­ment, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, had a pro­gram?” he asked.

“Well, if they did, they haven’t said any­thing about that to me. The pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment was not in the habit of in­form­ing me of what they were do­ing,” she replied, to laugh­ter.

‘Our coun­try won’t get any ben­e­fit from a North Korea trip ... so our leader shouldn’t go there.’

U Ye Tun Po­lit­i­cal colum­nist

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